Bridget Baker

Baker Media Inc.

Bridget Baker, CEO, Baker Media Inc.; Former president of content distribution, NBCUniversal

Bridget Baker’s spirit of exploration came naturally. Her attorney father was an adventurer with a pioneering outlook. When he left the Marine Corps, he joined Alaska’s oldest law firm and moved his young family of five to Juneau. “When you grow up in such a remote area, you tend to be externally focused,” Baker says. “I wanted to get out and explore the world.” She was also “a bit of a news junkie.” After college, she went to Washington, D.C. as a legislative assistant to Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens while attending graduate school at night.

Within a few years, Baker was ready to move to the private sector. In Washington, she’d been paying close attention to issues that affected the unique needs of Alaskans; telecommunications was one that seemed appealing. A friend told her about the Fashion Channel, an early home-shopping cable network dedicated to clothing. Having grown up shopping from catalogs in Alaska, Baker says, the idea of “shopping from a distance” via video catalog made perfect sense. She joined the network and began traveling around the country to convince local cable operators to carry her service.

Baker was in her element. “I loved the cable business,” she says. “My job was to meet with the entrepreneurs who were connecting America. I loved their independent spirit.” The Fashion Channel only survived for two years. Baker was looking for her next gig when NBC called. The major broadcaster had plans to get into the cable news business, challenging the primacy of CNN. Baker was skeptical. Knowing cable operators as well as she did, she didn’t think they would welcome a broadcast interloper on CNN founder Ted Turner’s turf. While in New York for an interview, she ran into a cable friend: Fred Vierra, who was then leading Denver-based United Cable. “Fred said, ‘You’re unemployed, right? Why don’t you give it a whirl and see what happens?’” she recalls.

Baker took the job and became a co-founder of CNBC. Her skill negotiating carriage for the network was legendary, and her portfolio grew to include such properties as USA, Bravo, MSNBC, Oxygen, and others. She went on to become NBCUniversal’s president of content distribution. In 2012, she was honored with the NCTA Vanguard Award for Distinguished Leadership.

When she left NBCUniversal in 2013, she founded Baker Media, which advises both multi-billion-dollar networks and startups in content distribution. Her sense of adventure continues to be fed by her husband and three children. “They’ve led me down all sorts of interesting paths,” she says.

Baker advises those entering the cable and telecom industry to, “stay flexible. Come in with an open mind; be ready to absorb and learn because the industry moves quickly. When I came from Capitol Hill, I stepped into a fast-moving stream. If you have a spot on a boat in those waters, realize how lucky you are to be in this vibrant, successful industry.”

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